How tropical storms, hurricanes get their names

Hurricane Hugo (Courtesy: NOAA)

By Sonya

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- These days all tropical storms and hurricanes are named, but that hasn't always been the case. The largest storms on Earth were nameless until halfway through the 20th century.

The reason for naming these tropical systems with winds of 39 mph or more was to make it easier for people to remember them and for meteorologists to track them.

In 1950, meteorologists began to use the British-U.S. World War II spelling alphabet with Atlantic Basin storms. Some examples on that list were Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, and Easy.

Three years later, the National Hurricane Center began using female names because it wasn't confusing like the spelling alphabet. The same names were used year after year, such as Alice, Edna, and Hazel. These names were probably girlfriends' names of Army and Navy meteorologists in the Pacific during World War II.

In 1979, the current system of alternating male and female English, French, and Spanish names came to fruition. At that time, more women were becoming meteorologists and some thought that only using female names was sexist.

There are currently six lists of names for storms in the Atlantic Ocean. They rotate every year and are maintained by the World Meteorological Organization, WMO.

The names on the list are only retired if the storm is too costly or deadly and future use would be inappropriate or insensitive. Some of the storms that have been retired in the past are Andrew, Charley, Hugo, Katrina, and most recently Sandy. In fact, Sandy was the 77th hurricane name to be retired.

To see the list of names for 2013 storms, click here.{}